How Long Does It Take to Get Pre-Approved?

Mortgage and Lending with US Bank NMLS: 22343

How Long Does It Take to Get Pre-Approved?


Many real estate markets in California move fast, but it's been this way for years.  When a hot property hits, perhaps there's a showing on Sunday (more on that in a bit, and in the context of COVID-19) and then offers are due on Tuesday, with some buyers scrambling to make a pre-emptive offer, if possible.


This reality can run counter to some buyers' inclinations to get their mortgage financing in order by dipping one toe in the water at a time.  It's not uncommon for us to get a call that starts something like this:  "My partner and I are thinking about buying a home in the next 3 to 6 months, but we're first-time buyers and not really sure where to start.  We were told by our real estate agent that we need to get pre-approved and might have some time over the next few weeks to look into this.  Can you help us get started?"  It's also not terribly unlikely that a house will pop up that grabs these prospects by the heartstrings.  Before we know it, there will be a successive call that goes something like this:  "OMG!  We just saw the perfect home!  Offers are due tomorrow at noon!  What do we need to do to get pre-approved right now?"


So the real question here is, how long does it take to get pre-approved for a mortgage?  Of course, the answer will vary from one borrower to the next.  Some scenarios are quite simple --- both borrowers get a W-2, have funds for their down payment in one account and have squeaky clean credit.  Others are massively complex --- self-employment, multiple rental properties or entities owned, RSU or other variable income, a credit hiccup in the past, etc.  But at the end of the day, the single biggest factor determine the speed in which we can "decision" a pre-approval and get a buyer into the game comes down to the borrower's organizational skills.  In other words, if any borrower(s) can complete a thorough and accurate application, then bear down and get us complete documentation for their income, assets and credit, usually and irrespective of complexity, we are almost always able to turn a pre-approval in under 24 hours.  Often, under six hours.  Right now, due to the pandemic, you may not even be able to view a property without a pre-approval letter in hand, so we are seeing a resurgence in interest for pre-approvals on short notice.  


The process and steps for pre-approval generally follow this pattern, and there is no cost or obligation associated with making an application:


  1. We always welcome an initial call to discuss objectives and answer questions.  Call any time!
  2. Our digital mortgage application is one of the industry's best.  You can complete this user-friendly form in 10 to 15 minutes and whenever convenient.  It is best to tackle the application from a place where you have access to your financial documents so that you can assure accuracy, but even if this is not possible, some will complete the application from their smartphones with perfectly efficient results.
  3. Upon completion of your application, you'll be prompted to securely upload your financial documents such as paystubs, bank statements, tax returns, etc.  While you can skip this step at this phase, consistent with our theme above if you are able to provide complete documentation, we are able to return a decision with less delay.
  4. We will follow up with you to review your information and issue a pre-approval letter for your search.

If you are "in the market" and your market is in motion, timing to pre-approval should not be a concern.  Yes, if you are able to start and complete the preapproval process without urgency, that's helpful but not necessary.  We get how the housing market works and we understand what needs to happen when an opportunity arises or materializes.  Let us know when you need our assistance!


Point and shoot,


Rob Spinosa
Vice President of Mortgage Lending

Guaranteed Rate
NMLS: 22343 
Cell/Text: 415-367-5959


Marin Office:  324 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., San Anselmo, CA  94960

Berkeley Office:  1400 Shattuck Ave., Suite 1, Berkeley, CA  94709

*The views and opinions expressed on this site about work-related matters are my own, have not been reviewed or approved by Guaranteed Rate and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Guaranteed Rate.  In no way do I commit Guaranteed Rate to any position on any matter or issue without the express prior written consent of Guaranteed Rate's Human Resources Department.


Guaranteed Rate. Illinois Residential Mortgage Licensee NMLS License #2611 3940 N. Ravenswood Chicago, IL 60613 - (866) 934-7283

Comments (5)

Nick Vandekar, 610-203-4543
Long & Foster Real Estate Inc 610-225-7400 - Devon, PA
Selling the Main Line & Chester County

I always ask my buyers to get the process started as soon as possible so they can even get fully approved barring the appraisal and be in the same position as a cash buyer. As you say, all depends on their organizational skills.

Jul 07, 2020 09:44 AM
George Souto
George Souto NMLS #65149 FHA, CHFA, VA Mortgages - Middletown, CT
Your Connecticut Mortgage Expert

Rob the length of time for me to pre-approve a borrower is 90% up to them.  Once they complete the application and provide the documents you mentioned it takes me about 30 minutes to have an idea of what they can pre-qualify for.  However, the reality is that borrowers will generally complete the application fairly quick, but drag their feet on producing documents.

Jul 07, 2020 10:39 AM
Barbara Todaro
RE/MAX Executive Realty - Happily Retired - Franklin, MA
Previously Affiliated with The Todaro Team

Hi Rob Spinosa a 24 hour turn-around for a "thorough" pre-approval letter is wonderful....but it's understood that the buyer must have some organization skills prior to submitting the complete package.... 

Jul 12, 2020 01:47 PM
Richard Weeks
Dallas, TX
REALTOR®, Broker

Great information, thanks for sharing.  I hope you have a great day.

Jul 13, 2020 01:51 AM
Jan Green - Scottsdale, AZ
Value Added Service, 602-620-2699 - Scottsdale, AZ
HomeSmart Elite Group, REALTOR®, EcoBroker, GREEN

In Arizona it's best to submit all financials, fill out an application, before writing a contract on a property.  The pre-qualification form us required with a contract and with a fast paced seller market, we HAVE to ensure this process.  Good for you for dispelling some rumors and myths about getting pre-approved! 

Jul 13, 2020 12:19 PM